It seems like the last couple of weeks my wife and I have spent a lot of time processing tomatoes. We have made two batches of Homemade Tomato Ketchup, a batch each of Freezer Tomato Sauce and unseasoned Vitamix Tomato Sauce, plus a batch of Freezer Marinara Sauce from a recipe in my well-worn copy of The Victory Garden Cookbook. Actually my wife made one batch of ketchup and I made the rest of the things, and I appreciate her help because making the ketchup is a marathon event. It is made easier by processing the cored tomatoes skin and all in the Vitamix blender, which saves a bit of time up front. But then it still takes several hours to cook it down to the right consistency.
I used a mix of tomatoes for the above processing, including paste tomatoes like Viva Italia, Health Kick, Rio Grande, Big Mama, Golden Rave and Quadro. I also used my favorite Juliet, plus a few of the smaller slicers like Early Girl and Eva’s Purple Ball. For the unseasoned sauce I’ll really use any tomato I have, including cherry, grape and plum types. The smaller ones are nice because you don’t even have to core them, just rinse and throw them in the blender.
We’ve also gotten our first taste of the two Artisan Tomatoes I’m growing this year, Blush and Green Tiger. Both these o/p varieties are from the Tiger line, and they are great tasting as well as colorful. They also have the Bumble Bee series of cherry tomatoes which I have tasted but not grown. The size is hard to judge in the above photo but they are slightly larger than Juliet. I can see me trying more of the Artisan line in the years to come.
A newcomer here is the o/p Mexico Midget red cherry tomato. This prolific variety has given us lots of 1/2-3/4″ deep red tomatoes so far, many of which I snack on while outside working in the garden. Some of them do make it in the house, like the ones in the above photo. They have a nice flavor, sweet but not too sweet, and are great for salads.
The Mexico Midget tomatoes joined Sun Sugar and Black Cherry in a White Bean Caprese Salad I made one day for lunch. The tomatoes had the starring role, along with Runner Cannellini beans, fresh Mozzerella cheese and Profuma di Genova basil. Happy Acres doesn’t have quite the ambiance of the Piazza Umberto on Capri, but the salad was tasty anyway.
Some of the peppers are starting to ripen here. That’s a trio of Jimmy Nardello in the above photo, joined by a Tolli’s Sweet Italian on the left. I grew Tolli’s for the first time last year, and I liked the peppers well enough to give it another go this year. They have a little thicker wall than the Jimmy Nardello peppers, and are almost as sweet when cooked. So far they look to be productive here as well. The Tolli’s pepper went into a 3 Bean Salad my wife made on Saturday. Actually it wound up being a 2 bean salad, since she used Runner Cannellini and Red Nightfall beans to make it.
Something else that ripened is another of the Ambrosia melons. So far none of the melons this year have been as sweet as usual, which could be due to getting a lot of rain as they were sizing up. At any rate, the Ambrosia is still as sweet as anything we could buy at a farmer’s market, and much sweeter than what we see at the grocery (which usually have very little flavor).
Once again I am amazed at what a difference a year can make when you are growing your own food. Last year we had lots and lots of pole beans, but very few eggplants. The flea beetles got to the eggplant early on, and they never seemed to get over it. This year I did a better job of spraying for the beetles, and as a result the plants look great and are fruiting nicely. And the pole beans are giving us almost nothing this year! I keep hoping the beans will put out some new blooms when the temps moderate a bit. That’s the dark purple Nadia eggplant and the purple and white Calliope in the above photo.
We’ve been grilling a lot of the eggplant. I sliced up one the big purple Nadia and grilled it last week, with a little salt and homemade paprika for seasoning. I also grilled a sandwich that day on marbled rye bread topped with kohlrabi kraut, Swiss cheese and prosciutto ham. I believe this is similar to what Michelle is calling a Carmel Valley Reuben, and I have to say it was delicious. The dark coloring in the bread comes from cocoa added to the dough. The marbled bread was pretty but it wasn’t any better tasting than the recipes I usually make. The same dough did make some tasty marbled rye rolls.
Most of the summer squash are done for now, giving in to stem rot and the squash bugs. The vining heirloom Tatume gave us three more nice sized fruit last week. Those vines are still going so we might see more before the end of them.
I harvested all of the winter squash Gold Nugget. This variety matures early, and is a dependable producer for me year after year. The squash are just the right size for cutting in half and baking. That’s right at 12 pounds of them in the above photo.
I started drying mints and herbs for tea last week. I generally dry spearmint, peppermint, orange mint, chocolate mint and lemon verbena. I’ve tried drying lemongrass, but I think it loses most of its flavor, so I pot up a plant of it to keep us supplied during the winter. The dehydrator stays busy this time of year, as I also dry calendula which pretty much blooms here non-stop all summer long.
And speaking of lemongrass, those stalks I rooted and planted behind the greenhouse in May are now four foot tall clumps. It’s such an easy and inexpensive way to grow lemongrass. I spent about $1 for the stalks, and now I have all the lemongrass I want.
Right next to the lemongrass is the Mexico Midget tomato plant. Or the plants, since I set two plants per over-sized cage. There’s no splitting or cracking, and I will be growing this prolific variety again.
That’s a look at what’s happening here in late July. To see what other gardeners are harvesting and cooking up, visit Daphne’s Dandelions where Daphne hosts Harvest Mondays.